Have you ever cut open a lime and been confronted by brown flesh and mushiness? If so, you’re probably wondering whether that means you should throw the fruit away, or whether you can still use the juice.
Limes sometimes develop brown areas inside, and this is often the result of insect damage. This tends to appear on the pithy white flesh between the green, juicy segments. Sometimes, brown inside your lime is a sign that the fruit has gone off – so make sure you check before you eat it!
In this article, we’ll explore what causes limes to turn brown inside, whether the brown bits are safe to eat, and how to tell if your lime has gone off.
What Makes Limes Turn Brown?
There are a few different kinds of browning inside a lime, so it’s important to look at what specifically has turned brown. Is the rind brown along the insides, as though it has been damaged? Is it the white pith in the center of the fruit that has taken on a funny tint? Is the whole lime, including the rind, browning?
The common causes of a lime turning brown include:
- Insect damage
- Citrus canker
- The fruit being old
Any of these three reasons could be the cause of browning inside your lime, but it’s worth understanding how they differ from each other, and checking whether the lime is still safe to eat. Don’t just toss it straight in the garbage when you see the brown flesh – it might be totally fine to consume.
Both insect damage and citrus canker will result in fruits that you can still eat, although you should cut the brown area out, and just use the rest of the lime. However, if you think your lime is old and the browning is a result of decaying tissues, you may wish to avoid using it, because there is a risk that it could make you sick.
Although it is relatively rare for people to get food poisoning as a result of eating moldy fruits, it’s still a problem that you should be aware of if you are dealing with a lime that looks like it has gone off. Don’t eat any limes that show signs of mold or that have a strange or alcoholic scent.
What Is Insect Damage?
If the lime shows no signs of damage on its exterior but has a brown substance on the inside that looks something like rot, there is a chance that it is suffering from insect damage. A certain kind of bug called the spined citrus bug often attacks citrus fruits and sucks the sap out of them.
This creates dry patches inside the fruit, and these will start to gum up and turn brown. You may sometimes see that the outside of the fruit has a flatter area on it, and this suggests that it has been pierced by a spined citrus bug.
This kind of browning doesn’t make the lime unsafe to eat – you can simply cut around the brown part, throw that away, and use the rest. The insect will not be inside the fruit, so there’s no need to worry about consuming it, and the lime shouldn’t hurt you.
However, damaged fruits do sometimes go off more quickly, so make sure you have checked whether the lime still smells and tastes okay. If it does, it’s fine to use.
What Is Citrus Canker?
Citrus canker usually shows up on the leaves of the affected tree, but it can spread to the fruits too, especially if it is left untreated. Usually, it will affect both the outside and the inside of the lime, and it causes a yellow halo around the brown damage on the skin. Most stores won’t sell limes that have been affected by citrus canker, because it is unsightly.
However, if you do find a lime that has only been affected on the inside, the store won’t have removed it from sale because they won’t be aware of the disease.
As with insect damage, it is safe to use limes that have turned brown due to citrus canker, but you may want to remove the brown parts.
How Can You Tell If A Lime Has Gone Off?
Browning inside your lime can also be a clear indication that the fruit has gone off, and this is something that you should watch out for, because it will contain mold and bacteria if it has started to decay. Fortunately, there are a few clear signs that you can use to tell whether the lime is still okay to eat, or whether it is past its best.
The first thing to do is check the texture. Limes that are fresh should be firm, with no mushy or slimy parts on the skin. The inside should have lots of juicy segments that burst when you cut or press them. There should be no discoloration on these segments, or on the white pith in between them (barring the causes mentioned above).
Next, check how the lime smells. It can be difficult to tell if citrus fruits have gone off because they have such a strong, fresh scent, but if you notice an alcoholic sort of aroma around the lime, this is a clear indication that it is no longer good to eat. It means that the sugars inside the fruit have begun to ferment, and it needs to be thrown away.
If you are still unsure, try tasting a little bit of the lime. If it tastes alcoholic, vinegary, or otherwise unusual, it needs to be thrown away. Changes to the taste, smell, or texture are all signs that the lime has gone off and the browning is due to rot.
Limes may turn brown due to insect damage or citrus canker, or simply because they are old and decaying. In the first two cases, the lime should still be fine to eat if you remove the brown bits, but if the lime has gone off, it should be thrown away.